CLEVELAND - Parents need to be extra vigilant today because child abusers and pedophiles are on the prowl.
News 5 spoke exclusively with a man who's tracking down those criminals, and his new study exposes more about who these perpetrators are.
“It is a rabbit hole, and depends on how far you want to go down,” said Dr. Jesse Bach, Director Emeritus for the Imagine Foundation, a non-profit developing research and recovery services for sex trafficking and pedophile victims.
On April 25, sex traffickers and pedophiles parade a teddy bear symbol around that looks happy and innocent, but it represents their very dark world. The symbol signals they’re all in the same club, and a pathway to trade tips and tricks on how to get their next victim. What might be more disturbing is who these perpetrators are.
“A lot of times we think of them as an ‘other,’” Dr. Bach says.
But that’s not the case in one of his most recent studies with Cleveland State University researchers and in the Domestic Sex Trafficking In Ohio Study, data was collected from offenders caught on ‘the dark net' —a web of password protected pages, not accessible to the general public.
Those studies found the profile is typically a white male, varying in socioeconomic status and mostly connected to law enforcement like officers, firefighters and public officials.
“When you think that this is a crime that’s hidden in plain sight, from trusted people, right around you, that’s very difficult to stomach,” Bach said.
Indeed, hard to stomach for someone like Annette Mango, who’s lived most of her life as a human trafficking victim.
“They hide behind who they are and what they are, their title,” Mango said.
She recalled several times being raped by officers. She said the people who she thought could protect her, wouldn’t.
“They would say, that they’re human too, that that’s their work. Being a policeman is they job like any other person, but when they’re off, that has nothing to do with anything,” Mango said.
That’s why it’s so hard to get out, though three years ago, Mango did and is now living a sober life, one free of sex trafficking.